How to spend less time in your inbox

If you spend a lot of time in your inbox and you’re wondering how you can spend less time writing and replying to emails in 2021, I have a not-great and a pretty-great option for you.

The Not-Great Option: Stop Replying To Emails With Any Sense Of Timeliness

Give yourself, say, one hour per week to:

  • Review your inbox
  • Reply to the most urgent/impactful emails
  • Archive the rest of the emails and move on with your week (if the email wasn’t urgent/impactful, it’s unlucky, which means it get archived)

It’s… not that great, but it does get the job done. You’ll spend less time replying to emails and less time in your inbox. Plus, if someone follows-up on their previous emails, that’s a signal that their email is (most likely) an important one.

The Pretty-Great Option: Start Using Email Templates

It’s a pain to write an email from scratch. And it’s excruciating when the topic of the email is… uncomfortable (e.g., following-up on that unpaid invoice, checking in on that project) or just dull or repetitive to write (e.g., “because you made this payment electronically with a credit card, I don’t need to send you a 1099”).

However, there is a solution: start using email templates!

Write a template once, and then copy/customize/send it whenever you need it in the future.

I can say without any hype or hyperbole that email templates changed my life. I spend a lot of time in my inbox and corresponding with folks, and starting to define + use email templates made me a lot more productive.

When you have a reliable bank of email templates, it’s a lot easier to process your inbox:

  • “Oh, I need to send this person my meeting-request template.”
  • “This person? I need to send them my final-follow-up template.”
  • “That email? I need to send my ‘reschedule for after the new year’ template.”
  • “That one? They’re asking what my hourly rate is. I’ll send them my ‘I don’t have an hourly rate’ email template.”

Boom. Inbox 0.

To get started with email templates, you want to consider TWO things:

  1. What tool are you using to store the email templates?
  2. What do you need to say in your email templates?

For the first question (tooling), there are a bunch of options out there. If you use Gmail, they have a ‘canned response’ feature. Notion or Google Docs both work well to store the text of any templates.

But I like aText ( Set up a definition (e.g., ;tme) and define the phase/content/email you want it to expand to (e.g., The full text of The Magic Email). Then, when you’re replying to emails, type the definition and get the full email in your reply.

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For the second question (what to say), the best option is to look at your inbox for:

  • The questions you’re frequently asked
  • The emails you often send
  • The replies you frequently send

And then start to collect your standard replies as reusable templates.

Build your template library over time. As you write + send emails, add them to your template library. As you reuse (and customize) your templates, keep them updated them in your template library.



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